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Kashmir solution possible: Musharraf

india Updated: Sep 20, 2006 11:50 IST

Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf told the United Nations General Assembly that "an acceptable solution" to the Kashmir issue is now within reach, thanks largely to improved relations with India.

His meeting last week with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Havana, on the sidelines of the NAM Summit, will help to promote the peace process in Kashmir, he said Tuesday in his address to the Assembly's 61st session.

Pakistan desires a peaceful environment in the region and was engaged in a peace process with India, aimed at confidence building and resolving issues, including the Jammu and Kashmir dispute, that has been the source of tension and conflict between the two countries in the past, Musharraf said.

But improved relations, and the conducive international environment, have brought an acceptable solution of this longstanding dispute within reach, he said.

"I am confident that my positive meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Havana will help to carry forward the peace process which is vital for the future of both countries and for peace in South Asia and beyond," he added.

Turning to the nuclear issue, Musharraf said Pakistan has a legitimate requirement for nuclear power generation to meet the energy needs of its expanding economy and its expanding industry.

As a responsible nuclear state, it will continue to seek nuclear technology for power generation under strict International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards, he said.

But "we cannot accept discrimination in the nuclear field," Musharraf said in an oblique reference to denial of an India-type nuclear deal by Washington.

A stable security environment is also important for peace in our region. Pakistan has proposed the creation of a Strategic Restraint Regime in South Asia, encompassing minimum nuclear deterrence and a balance of conventional forces, he said.

"We do not want to enter into an arms race. But we will do whatever is necessary to preserve the credibility of our minimum defensive deterrence level," Musharraf declared.

On the issue of terrorism, he said terrorism and extremism would continue to attract alienated Muslims until "the foreign occupation and suppression of Muslim peoples ended".

Military interventions and old conflicts "have spawned a deep sense of desperation and injustice" across the Muslim world, Musharraf added.

"Each new battleground involving an Islamic state has served as a new breeding ground for extremists and terrorists. Indiscriminate bombings, civilian casualties, torture, human rights abuses, racial slurs and discrimination only add to the challenge of defeating terrorism," he said.

The Pakistani leader called for a two-pronged strategy of "enlightened moderation" so that terrorism is tackled head on while at the same time the international community strives to resolve conflicts in the Islamic world.

"We also need to bridge, through dialogue and understanding, the growing divide between the Islamic and Western worlds. In particular, it is imperative to end racial and religious discrimination against Muslims and to prohibit the defamation of Islam. It is most disappointing to see personalities of high standing oblivious of Muslim sensitivities at these critical moments."

The unfortunate history of the region has placed Pakistan in the frontline of the global campaign against terrorism, he said.

"We cooperate daily with many countries including the United States and the United Kingdom. Our cooperation has pre-empted several terrorist plots, such as the one uncovered recently to blow up airliners flying from London," Musharraf said.

Over the past five years, Al-Qaeda has been significantly degraded as an organisation in the region, he claimed.

On Iran, Musharraf said the confrontation over Iran's nuclear programme threatens further instability in this already inflamed region. But he believed that the issue can be resolved peacefully in a manner that accommodates the legitimate rights and interests of all the parties involved.

Resorting to coercion and, worse, the use of force, could lead to grave consequences in region and globally, he warned.

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